When the first expresses from London to Edinburgh began in 1862, the journey took 10 and a half hours.Today, you can take the train from London King’ s Cross and put your feet on the old Scottish soil in less than five hours. The ride might still seem long, but once you pass Newcastle, all signs of regret will vanish as you follow the railway hugging the coastline. And if you are deserving enough, the sun will spoil you and light the blue sky as it meets the see line on the horizon. The astonishing green of the plains will leave all strangers amazed, while trying to understand the Gaelic names of the train stations.
In Edinburgh, the summer always feels colder, but once you meet the first drops of rain, you will learn to appreciate sunny but cold weather. If you are inspired enough to book a hotel close to the railway station, you can explore the city on foot starting with the Scott Monument up to the Edinburgh Castle on the hill and ending with the Palace of Hollyroodhouse, the official residence of the Royal family in Scotland. The Palace is located at the bottom of the Royal Mile, the central street in Edinburgh and has served as the main residence of the Kings and Queens of Scots since the 16th century.
Walking down the Royal Mile you can choose between tens of blends of single malt whisky, listen to traditional pipes music in the streets and have a taste of delicious scottish cookies called scones.
And if you are fond of animals, you should visit the statue of Greyfriars Bobby, the Skye terrier who became known in the 19th century for spending 14 years guarding the grave of his owner until his own death, in 1872. A marvelous feeling that one shouldn’ t put aside is having tea on bord of the Royal Yaht Britannia, which after 30 years of serving the Royal family and its most important guests, now rests in the Edinburgh harbour.
Leaving Edinburgh, the train will make haste to take you to the north of the country, up to Inverness, the old capital of the Highlands. The name of this northermost city in the United Kingdom comes from the Gaelic Inbhir Nis, meaning mouth of the river Ness. Here, on a cold summer evening, you can sit in your hotel room, by the window, and have a hot tea with a drop of whisky, while watching the rapid waters of the river Ness and planning your adventure into the mystic Highlands.
From Inverness, you can take a day trip to Loch Ness, to catch a glympse at the infamous monster and after that, crossing the green mountains and passing ancient castles, to the amazing Island of Skye. On your way, you might freeze for a second if you stop to take a look at the surreal mists that cover mountain tops and lakes. Strange purple flowers, that look like fresh cotton cultures cover the green fields along with thistles, a national scottish symbol. One thing the Highlands are well known for are old castles telling the stories of brave Scottish clans, such as the Eilean Donan Castle, founded in the thirteenth century, a stronghold against the Norse expeditions of the Clan Mackenzie and their allies, Clan Macrae. At the beginning of the eighteenth century, the Clan Mackenzie was involved in the Jacobite rebellion and the castle was mostly destroyed by government ships in 1719.
While driving to the Island of Skye, you can stop for lunch and have a traditional scottish dish called haggis, which is made mostly of sheep meat or the regular fish and chips, called Beer battered haddock. Once you step on the island, while the mists surround you again, you can listen to the national Scottish anthem, Flower of Scotland, a reminder of the bravery and honour of the Scottish people during so many years of history. The Island of Skye, in Gaelic An t-Eilean Sgitheanach, is the largest island of the Inner Hebrides of Scoland, home of Clan MaCleod and Clan Donald, where the main occupations are still fishing and whisky-distiling.